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Americans, Grocers, Grapple With Ongoing Food Shortages, High Prices

Are you stocking up on food?

Because I did a deep dive into high food prices this week and some experts are warning that it’s only going to get worse over the next year or two.

I got walloped at the grocery stores last week, spending double what I normally do. Granted, that included toiletries and some cleaning supplies, but seriously? $400? I didn’t even buy a ribeye.

“We’re going to continue to see price increases, probably for the next two years or so,” says Phil Lempert, an analyst and food trends expert perhaps best known as the Supermarket Guru.

Experts blame Covid for our outrageous grocery bills, but Covid seems to take the blame for just about everything that happens now. But there’s more, according to a journalist at Investment Watchdog. “A combination of global droughts, volatile weather, labor shortages, and supply chain disruptions persisting from COVID, among others, have contributed to the rapid rise in food prices over the last year.”

This particular writer, Michael Snyder, says he has been telling people to stock up for months, but feels few are actually listening. “Most people just have an absurd amount of faith in the strength and durability of our system, and so they refuse to believe that it could ever fail.”

If Snyder and others are right, why aren’t there more directives to grab some extra canned goods when you are out, or to think a year ahead when it comes to stocking up? These days it’s imperative to think for ourselves and be proactive about our own physical and financial health. I don’t believe we have gotten practical advice about anything in either department throughout this whole pandemic. It seems to be every man for himself.

I went shopping for my mother the other day and she had powdered sugar on her list. There was not one bag of powdered sugar at Wegman’s. What a strange item to have out of stock. Are you all making cakes this week?

But according to The Hagstrom Report, America is facing a sugar shortage after last year’s bad weather in the Midwest, a freeze in Louisiana, and drought in Mexico.

I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t ask for explanations, I just react to what’s happening and try to make smart decisions based on observation. Takeaway: if you like to bake and you see a bag of powdered sugar at the grocery store, buy it. Buy two maybe.

I thought this was a very underwhelming statement from the Department of Agriculture on their website: “There are currently no nationwide shortages of food, although in some cases the inventory of certain foods at your grocery store might be temporarily low before stores can restock.”

Food prices are up more than 30%, folks. Maybe the food shortages at our stores on certain items isn’t enough to raise the heartbeat of the USDA, but the outrageous prices merit some explanation. We can live without powdered sugar, but we can’t live without food. Prices are already making shopping difficult for some families. A young man who does some odd jobs for us and is raising a daughter alone told me his weekly trips to McDonalds for a meal have increased this past summer because it’s cheaper to eat there than it is to buy groceries for his family.

On his website, Food Guru Lempert writes that the CEO of Rouse’s Markets in Louisiana said that his chain of 60 supermarkets is receiving as little as 40% of what they order. Costco has again implemented one package per person limits on the sale of toilet paper, paper towels and other products as of late August. Food service giant Sysco has called their restaurant customers in various locations throughout the nation to tell them they have to delay or pause service due to labor shortages – and without food, these restaurants are once again having to close their doors.

And here’s some sobering news, although it doesn’t apply to the U.S.: At least 155 million people are facing acute hunger because of conflict, economic shocks and extreme weather, a new report has found. The Global Report on Food Crisis 2021 says the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the risk of severe hunger in some regions of the world.

So, what’s the best way to stock up on food in your own household?

At a website called Shelf Cooking, they say that you don’t have to overwhelm your grocery budget to build up a healthy food stock. And you don’t have to panic, either. Come up with a budget and plan for more space to store food in your house, even in a spare bedroom closet. Having containers and a variety of storage bags is smart, like Mylar bags or storage food buckets sold on Amazon for bulk items like rice.

Use the sales flyers that come into your mailbox. Shop the sales and plan your meals around them.

Americans have been comfortable for a long time. Now is a good time to think ahead and to think outside of the box.

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